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Please be patient. Apologies!

ETA: This layout seems to have fixed it. Now I have to decide whether I like it. Hmmmm.

Mujaddara

[image: bowl of mujaddara]
[image: bowl of mujaddara]

This is a follow-up to my mujaddara post from last year. I think I’ve found a version I like. I found out that I was sort of wrong about the original dish from Mediterranean Grill House. I took a look at the menu on their website, and it’s listed there as “Mujaddarah – Kushari.”

Kushari is an Egyptian dish which, like mujaddara, involves rice, lentils, and onions. However, it also contains macaroni, which was the mystery addition in MGH’s dish. So it’s more like a combination of the two? No vinegary tomato sauce, though (but I always dumped a ton of their hot sauce on top). The bright yellow I haven’t really found in any variation of either recipe. I added some turmeric to mine, but I think in order to get it the right shade, I’d need to add a bunch more to the rice as it’s cooking, and not just in the spiced oil.

(This is not a traditional recipe, just FYI. Also this particular method uses way too many dishes.)

1.5 cups long-grain white rice (I like jasmine)
1 cup brown lentils
2 onions, sliced into half-moons
vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
plain greek yogurt or sour cream, to serve
lemon juice, to serve

Cook the rice using your preferred method—stovetop, rice cooker, whatever. But for me, it’s the oven. In a 8×8 baking dish rubbed with a skosh of butter or oil, put 1.5 cups of rice, 1 tsp kosher salt, and 2 1/3 cup boiling water. Stir, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 1 hour at 375. Remove from oven, fluff with a fork, and set aside while other things are finishing.

(p.s. this method is amazing for brown rice and farro)

Cook the lentils on the stovetop in 4 cups of water until tender, 20–25 minutes.

In a pot that will be large enough to hold all the ingredients eventually, splash a bit of oil and add the onions and some salt. Over medium-low to medium heat, caramelize the onions. This will take a while. Add a sprinkle of sugar if you get impatient.

In a little pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the cumin, turmeric, paprika, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to combine over medium-low heat. Once the smell gets really potent and the oil starts to bubble around the edges a bit, remove from heat.

Stir the oil into the onions. Add the lentils and rice and mix everything together.

Serve with yogurt or sour cream, lemon juice, and an extra little sprinkle of salt. (If you want to make this vegan, just leave out the dairy garnish.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]
[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]

I don’t really do pretty cookies. I’m all for cookies that just taste good, regardless of their appearance. So it’s mainly drop cookies for me. However, for Valentine’s Day, I wanted to send some holiday-appropriate cookies to my nephews, so I unearthed a rolled cookie recipe and found a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

The recipe for Cardamom Butter Cookies has you rest the dough for a half hour in the fridge. This is supposed to take the dough from a pile of crumbs into a cohesive mass that can then be rolled. Well, it wasn’t happening. Maybe it was too dry here that day, maybe I hadn’t let the butter warm enough, but—I was panicking, basically. Suddenly I remembered a tip from America’s Test Kitchen (or Good Eats or one of the many cooking shows I had been watching during the aughts). It was a tip for pie crust, to use a bit of vodka when you needed moisture in the dough without adding water (which would make the crust tough). I put my crumbled dough back in the mixer and added two tablespoons of vodka, one at a time, until the dough came together as needed. I was then able to roll and cut it as I wished. I think I could probably skip the whole resting stage entirely next time, to be honest.

And the cookies were great! Happy Valentine’s, everybody!

Dill Pickles

[image: back of an envelope with the recipe scrawled on it]
[image: back of an envelope with the ingredients scrawled on it]

I don’t have a photo of the pickles because we ate them too quickly for me to get them into a nice jar (they were DAMN GOOD). So enjoy this scrawled ingredient list on the back of an envelope. It’s how many of my kitchen antics are recorded.

I’ve made three different kinds of pickles over the last few weeks. My folks had half a head of fennel that they weren’t going to use, so I found this recipe for Pickled Fennel with Orange on Serious Eats. I guess the only change I made was that I used the stalks of fennel as well as the bulb I had, to try and approximate “three small fennel bulbs.” (I wish they’d had a weight measurement instead.) The other thing which was recommended in the comments was to rinse the fennel after salting it.

I wasn’t too sure about it at first, but after like a week of flavor development I really got into it. It was good out of the jar, but my preferred application was on sandwiches. Toasted rye, cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, and fennel/orange pickle.

The second pickle is the dill cucumber pickles, recipe below. These were so good that I’m going to attempt cucumbers this year in my garden. But that is for a different post!

After we hoovered up the cucumber pickles, I decided to reuse the brine on some leftover asparagus spears. Reusing brine is NOT recommended if you’re canning, but it’s fine for refrigerator pickles. Asparagus has to be blanched first before putting into the briny deep. They’ve been in there for 48 hours; I tried a spear today but they weren’t ready yet. I’ll wait a few more days.

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
24 cucumber spears (I had 1.5 large cucumbers—sliced in half across, then each half into eighths)

Place the dill seeds, peppercorns, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leafs in the bottom of your pickling container of choice (I use cleaned 32-oz. yogurt containers). Wedge the cucumber spears into the container atop the spices.

In a small pot, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Carefully pour into the container. Refrigerate for a week before eating. (If you are not using a jar and therefore find that the end of your spears are bobbing over the surface of the brine, rotate them top to bottom every other day.)

Almond Thins

[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]
[image: almond thin cookies and adorable owl mugs]

I don’t actually know why I thought this, but I thought I needed a cookie that would stack easily for a gift. It’s not like I was mailing them, so I really didn’t, but that was my thought process. I gave them as gifts to my hair gal and an old pal of mine from work. Flo Braker’s original recipe didn’t include any salt, so I rectified that.

So the original yield is 80–90 cookies, but I only got about 55. I just couldn’t slice it thinly enough. You need a really thin, really sharp knife—which I thought I had, but apparently it wasn’t quite thin and sharp enough. Honestly, I think you need like a meat slicer for this.

What I did with my scraps and mis-cuts was to roll them out super-thin between some parchment and cut rectangles from there. You get a difference in how the almonds interact with the dough (they’ll be flat instead of cut across). They won’t look as interesting, in my opinion, but it is an option. I didn’t notice them getting tough because of the extra working of the dough, which is good.

You may notice after a few days that the cookies soften (and depending on the humidity, it could be the very next day). To crisp the cookies back up, I slid them into my toaster oven for a couple minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Excellent with tea! Aren’t those cute mugs?

1 stick butter, cubed
1 1/3 cup coarse golden sugar (demerara, washed raw sugar, or turbinado—I used Sugar in the Raw)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup water
2 1/3 cup AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sliced almonds

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Stir until the butter just melts and remove promptly from heat. Don’t let the sugar dissolve.

Mix the butter mixture with the flour, baking soda, and almonds until combined. Press the dough into the prepared loaf pan. Cover with additional plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the dough and smoothing the top. Chill until firm. (I found that a refrigerator chill was not enough to keep the shape while slicing, so I had to freeze it nearly solid.)

Line baking sheets with parchment (don’t use a silpat, they won’t get crisp enough). Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Using a very, very sharp and thin knife, carefully slice the loaf into pieces narrow as possible. Place on the baking sheets about 1/2–1″ apart (they will spread slightly due to the baking soda—I foolishly thought they wouldn’t and my first batch had a couple merge into each other). (Also see above for my solution to scraps.)

Bake for 10–15 minutes, then carefully flip the cookies over with a spatula and continue baking for an additional 10–15 minutes (the time will depend on how thin you were able to cut the slices). You want them to be a deep golden-brown. Cool completely on a rack.

Tête de Moine

[image: tete de moine cheese ruffle]
[image: tête de moine cheese ruffle]

Tête de Moine (Monk’s Head) is a very fun (and stinky!) cheese. You buy it in whole wheels and shave off thin curls with a device called a Girolle. In French, girolles are a type of chanterelle mushroom, and the device was named for the beautiful curls of cheese it produces which are supposed to resemble the mushroom cap.

[image: girolle cheese slicer with tete de moine]
[image: girolle cheese shaver with tête de moine]

It used to be damn near impossible to locate a Girolle in America, but then internet shopping was invented, so now they’re easy to find on Amazon. You can actually get the cheese on Amazon as well, although I was able to find it at Whole Foods (well, I had to call around and go a couple Whole Foods down the road, but still—I found it locally).

So the trick with the Girolle is that you don’t press down too hard. Light pressure, move it in a circle. Too much downward pressure and you risk cracking the wheel. The purpose of the frilly cheese flowers (besides looking pretty) is that they expose a bunch of surface area to the air which helps maximize the smell (I did mention it was a smelly cheese) and develop the flavor.

I am amused by the official Tête de Moine website. It has a specific section for recipes, but since how the cheese is served is as important as the cheese itself, all the recipes are basically “Make a thing and then put a cheese curl on top.”

This is a really fun addition to any hors d’oeuvres spread. The presentation is beautiful, and it’s fun to shave and serve. To my friends: I’ll put out an APB on Twitter the next time we buy a wheel, and you can come over and try it. Highly recommended!

Lupicia Lucky Bag

[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]
[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]

I went into San Francisco yesterday and stopped at Lupicia, one of my favorite tea retailers. I was there to pick up some loose leaf La Belle Epoque, my go-to for “tea-flavored tea.”

While I was there I noticed that they had a display of lucky bags (well, boxes, but same thing). Fukubukuro are a big thing with Japanese stores. They’re a grab bag sold at a discount. I was surprised to see they had any left (stores sell them for the New Year), but I picked up one for $30.

Here’s what was inside (and their descriptions from Lupicia’s website):

  • Momo Oolong Super Grade (retail price $13.00) Savor the succulent flavor and aroma of Japanese white peach in this Taiwanese pouchong blend accented with pink rose petals.
  • Sakurambo (retail price $6.50) Black tea flavored with Japanese cherries, which has a sweet and fruity aroma.
  • Tikuanyin (retail price $11.00) Oolong tea from Fujian province has a rich taste and sweet aroma.
  • Darjeeling Second Flush (retail price $8.50) A blend of summer-plucked Darjeeling tea. Often referred to as “Champagne of teas”.
  • Afternoon Tea (retail price $6.00) A blend of light-bodied Darjeeling and full-bodied Assam. Can be served with milk.
  • Matcha Black Soybean Rice Tea (retail price $5.00) A genmaicha (rice tea) blended with black beans and matcha, to promote “healthy living”.
  • Strawberry & Vanilla (retail price $6.50) Green tea with matcha is flavored with sweet fragrance of strawberry and vanilla.
  • Muscat (retail price $6.50) Refreshing taste of muscat offers an interesting impression. Ideal choice for an iced tea.
  • Cookie (retail price $7.00) Black tea scented with an image of freshly baked caramel cookies. Best served with milk.

So that’s $70 worth of tea for $30! I have had the Momo Oolong before and loved it, but it’s expensive so I’ve only purchased it once. I have sipped my way through several bags of Sakurambo in the past, I like it a lot. The rest are new to me, and I’m very excited to try them all! The only one I’m a bit leery of is the Muscat, but I think I’ll take their advice and brew it for iced tea.

Curried Eggplant Pickle Relish

[image: six small white eggplants]
[image: six small white eggplants]

This was my final harvest of the Casper eggplants. Six li’l guys. I pickled them using a curry pickle recipe, thinking “eggplant + curry = good.” But once pickled, I realized I had failed to take into account their texture. Eggplants are way softer than cucumbers and peppers. So when I bit into one, I didn’t get a crisp snap, just a sort of softened press. Not a great sensation. But although the texture was off, the flavor was still good, so I chopped up the eggplant flesh and made it into a relish.

(This was the smaller of the two jars seen in the Tomolives post.)

Enough eggplant to fill a 1-quart jar once peeled and cut into spears
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp whole allspice
3/4″ fresh ginger root, thinly sliced

Peel and cut the eggplant into spears. Put the ginger, whole allspice, and cumin seeds in the bottom of your pickling container (as mentioned in my last post, I use old yogurt tubs), then pack in the eggplant. Bring the vinegar, water, salt, and curry powder to a boil for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into pickling container.

Let develop in the refrigerator for 1–2 weeks, stirring every other day or so. Remove eggplant and dice, removing seeds if necessary (since I was using tiny eggplants, this was not a problem). Strain the pickling brine and discard the solids. Pack the diced eggplant into your final jar and pour strained liquid over top (discard any extra). Store in fridge, use on hot dogs and the like.

Tomolives

[image: jars of tomolives and curry eggplant relish]
[image: jars of tomolives and curry eggplant relish]

More pickles! These two jars I prepared for my friend Lydia, owner of the blog Truffle Wants Snacks. The larger jar on the left contains Tomolives, which are apparently a Southern thing. I made them with green Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and darkened-a-bit-but-still-not-totally-ripe Indigo Rose tomatoes from my garden. Clearly I picked these a while ago—back in November after the frosts became unbearable for my plants. I was trying to find pickle recipes for green tomatoes, and came across a couple promising posts.

This line, from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen immediately jumped out at me:

Tomolives are just wonderful in a martini, served as a casual appetizer, skewered with sharp cheese, or plucked from the jar while you stare into the depths of the refrigerator wondering what to have for lunch.

Martinis, appetizers, cheese. Check, check, check. These are some of the many fine qualities that Lydia brings to a friendship.

(The curry eggplant relish recipe will be coming in a few days!)

1 quart unripe small or cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
2 small red chili peppers (SUPER CHILIS!)

With a toothpick, skewer, or knife, poke holes in each tomato (I used a toothpick and poked them from the stem end down to the opposite end). Place the chilis, bay leaves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and mustard seeds in the bottom of a 1-quart jar. Pack the tomatoes in on top.

Boil the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic cloves together for 5 minutes. Carefully pour into the jar. Refrigerate for a week before eating.

(I don’t actually pickle in the jars, I use cleaned 32-oz yogurt containers and then transfer them into the nicer jars when it comes time for presentation. Allows me to make sure all the good stuff is on top. If you do this, during the initial pickling give them a stir every so often to make sure everything get submerged equally.)